The Good Life: Aspiration, Dignity, and the Anthropology of Wellbeing

The Good Life: Aspiration, Dignity, and the Anthropology of Wellbeing

Edward F. Fischer

Language: English

Pages: 280

ISBN: 0804792534

Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub

What could middle-class German supermarket shoppers buying eggs and impoverished coffee farmers in Guatemala possibly have in common? Both groups use the market in pursuit of the "good life." But what exactly is the good life? How do we define wellbeing beyond material standards of living? While we all may want to live the good life, we differ widely on just what that entails.

In The Good Life, Edward Fischer examines wellbeing in very different cultural contexts to uncover shared notions of the good life and how best to achieve it. With fascinating on-the-ground narratives of Germans' choices regarding the purchase of eggs and cars, and Guatemalans' trade in coffee and cocaine, Fischer presents a richly layered understanding of how aspiration, opportunity, dignity, and purpose comprise the good life.

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with provenance and geographic designations has spread to olive oil, caviar, and diamonds. Chocolate and coffee, in particular, have become, moral provenance and larger purposes 83 at the upper end of the market, valued through notions of terroir. Terroir is used to signal overall quality as well as particular gustatory qualities, and documenting terroir allows certain firms to collect monopoly rents. The French Champagne industry spends heavily on advertising to reinforce the value of its

in Guatemala was a highly concentrated industry composed of a small number of very large ­producers. These cafetaleros operated privately owned fincas and depended on temporary migrant labor to deliver what had become a high-volume, low-cost commodity product. The large producers traded with equally large and concentrated exporters and roasters who then completed the global value chain; this was the coffee that found its way into cups around the Plate 9: Milpa and Nutrition Milpa, traditional

children. In both cases, we see people building meaningful life projects oriented around visions of the good life. Having such larger purpose and being part of meaningful projects that go beyond narrow self-interest are central to wellbeing among both the affluent and the poor. What constitutes “meaningful” is defined through cultural values and a sense of purpose based on what matters most in life. This idea overlaps with Alasdair MacIntyre’s (1984) definition of virtue— excellence at a given

motivated. That is, substantive freedom entails making choices that are consistent with one’s values and not simply the result of mechanical self-interest or extrinsic reward seeking (see also Laidlaw 2002). In this light, we may understand agency as a psychological state of being and not simply a measure of achieved wealth or status. Sabina Alkire (2008) shows that it is largely assumed that agency contributes directly to wellbeing, since pursuing one’s own goals would, ipso facto, increase

trust each other enough to be willing to accept sacrifice. The Ultimatum Game: Cross-cultural Results The Ultimatum Game applies the hypothetical dilemma of competitive versus cooperative behavior to an experimental context in which there are real material stakes. Average offer sizes place a monetary value on players’ preferences for cooperation and competition—higher offers reflect 166 guatemalan coffee, cocaine, and capabilities greater cooperation. Rejection rates similarly value the

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